British passport officers to take five weeks of strike action

FILE PHOTO: Current and previous European Union versions of British passports are seen in this illustration photograph

LONDON (Reuters) - Most of Britain's passport office workers will go on strike for five weeks starting next month in a pay dispute, potentially disrupting the delivery of passports ahead of the summer holiday period.

More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working across most of the UK's passport offices including in London, Liverpool and Glasgow will walk out from April 3 to May 5, the union said in a statement on Friday.

They join workers in other sectors in Britain who have staged strikes in recent months demanding higher pay to cover surging inflation.

Passport officers in Belfast, Northern Ireland could also strike if they vote in favour of walking out in a ballot that closes on Friday.

"This escalation of our action has come about because, in sharp contrast with other parts of the public sector, ministers have failed to hold any meaningful talks with us, despite two massive strikes and sustained, targeted action lasting six months," PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said.

The PCS union has demanded a 10% pay rise for civil servants as UK inflation is now running at just over 10%. Passport officers had previously rejected a 2% pay rise.

The government's passport offices are the sole issuer of UK passports, issuing over 5 million of them each year, meaning any strike by officers working there will likely cause significant disruption to services.

Britain is seeing the worst wave of labour unrest since the 1980s, with strikes affecting almost every aspect of daily life from healthcare and transport to schools and border checks, as workers demand pay rises that better reflect the worst inflation in four decades.

Around 100,000 other civil servants, who work in government departments, staged a strike on Wednesday alongside thousands of other employees including railway workers, doctors and teachers.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Susan Fenton)